Monday, 28 February 2011

Finns come up with a cunning plan involving moles and schoolchildren.

What do you do if you're the National Library of Finland and have millions of pages of newspapers, magazines and books that you want to digitise, but are set in a difficult typeface that OCR software has problems with?

Do you  a) employ someone for the next few thousand years to complete the job, or b) come up with a novel and fun solution that involves thousands of citizens and schoolchildren taking bitesize pieces out of the problem.

Yes, you've guessed it - it's b.

The project, Digitalkoot (Digital Volunteers), blends microtasks, crowdsourcing, and video games to break up and distribute some of the dull repetitive work of verifying digitized records.

"We have millions and millions of pages of historically and culturally valuable magazines, 
newspapers and journals online. The challenge is that the optical character recognition often contains errors and omissions, which hamper for example searches," says Kai Ekholm, Director of the National Library of Finland. "Manual correction is needed to weed out these mistakes so that the texts become machine readable, enabling scholars and archivists to search the material for the information they need."

Microtask has designed two games that will make this work entertaining. 

In 'Mole Hunt', the player is shown two different words, and they must determine as quickly as possible if they are the same. This uncovers erroneous words in archived material. In 'Mole Bridge', players have to spell correctly the words appearing on the screen. Correct answers help moles build a bridge across a river. Again, the game helps verify the OCR and make sure that digitized materials are accurate and searchable.

It's a brilliant and innovative idea that spreads the work and give the public a sense of ownership of the project and by extension the original material.

On a personal level I have to admit that the urge to drown the occasional mole is sometimes almost overwhelming.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Lovely, Lovely, Library - viva Mexico!

Ok, so it's not a patch on Fairwater, but it's still pretty delicious.

It's like Escher's been industrialised.  But in a good way.  And they seem to have cloned the staff.

More stunning pictures, plans and even words here.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Hey, let's play Dewey Charades!

Right, we all know and love the Dewey Decimal Classification right?  You know, it's how most big public libraries arrange their non-fiction stock.  Yes, those strange numbers on the spines of the books.

If you want to know more about DDC click here.  If you want to know about Melvil (not a nice man, but by God he knew how to use a decimal point), click here.  If you're a Death Watch beetle, just click.

Ok, here we go.

It's like Charades, but sadder - if such a thing is possible.  I tell you if it's a film, book, play or well-known saying (slight incline of the head to Catchphrase), how many words, and give you the Dewey number and you comment what you think is the answer.


It's a film, one word, 963.986.

Heavens this is exciting.  Answer in about a week.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Where's Libby - the Scarlet Pimpernel of Cardiff Council buildings?

You know how it is, no matter how wonderful your home, how grand the views and stimulating the company, we all feel the urge to get away once in a while.

And Cardiff Central Library is no exception.

Here she is on a day trip to London, not so cunningly disguised as the trendy W Hotel in Leicester Square.

Oh, and look - she's taken her little friend the sausage stall with her.  How sweet.

If you see Libby anywhere why not take a snap and send it in?

Thanks to Cassie for this one.